Restrictive firearm legislation has failed to reduce
gun violence in Australia, Canada, or Great Britain. The policy
of confiscating guns has been an expensive failure, according to
a new paper The Failed Experiment: Gun Control and Public Safety in Canada,
Australia, England and Wales
, released today by The Fraser Institute.
"What makes gun control so compelling for many is the belief that
violent crime is driven by the availability of guns, and more
importantly, that criminal violence in general may be reduced by
limiting access to firearms," says Gary Mauser, author of the
paper and professor of business at Simon Fraser University.
This new study examines crime trends in Commonwealth countries
that have recently introduced firearm regulations. Mauser notes
that the widely ignored key to evaluating firearm regulations is
to examine trends in total violent crime, not just firearm crime.
The United States provides a valuable point of comparison for
assessing crime rates as that country has witnessed a dramatic
drop in criminal violence over the past decade - for example, the
homicide rate in the US has fallen 42 percent since 1991. This is
particularly significant when compared with the rest of the world
- in 18 of the 25 countries surveyed by the British Home Office,
violent crime increased during the 1990s.
The justice system in the U.S. differs in many ways from those in
the Commonwealth but perhaps the most striking difference is that
qualified citizens in the United States can carry concealed
handguns for self-defence. During the past few decades, more than
25 states in the U.S. have passed laws allowing responsible
citizens to carry concealed handguns. In 2003, there are 35
states where citizens can get such a permit.
Disarming the public has not reduced criminal violence in any
country examined in this study. In all these cases, disarming the
public has been ineffective, expensive, and often counter
productive. In all cases, the effort meant setting up expensive
bureaucracies that produce no noticeable improvement to public
safety or have made the situation worse. Mauser points to these
trends in the countries he examined:
England and Wales
Both Conservative and Labour governments have introduced
restrictive firearms laws over the past 20 years; all handguns
were banned in 1997.
Yet in the 1990s alone, the homicide rate jumped 50 percent,
going from 10 per million in 1990 to 15 per million in 2000.
While not yet as high as the US, in 2002 gun crime in England and
Wales increased by 35 percent. This is the fourth consecutive
year that gun crime has increased.
Police statistics show that violent crime in general has
increased since the late 1980s and since 1996 has been more
serious than in the United States.
The Australian government made sweeping changes to the firearms
legislation in 1997. However, the total homicide rate, after
having remained basically flat from 1995 to 2001, has now begun
climbing again. While violent crime is decreasing in the United
States, it is increasing in Australia. Over the past six years,
the overall rate of violent crime in Australia has been on the
rise - for example, armed robberies have jumped 166 percent
The confiscation and destruction of legally owned firearms has
cost Australian taxpayers at least $500 million. The cost of the
police services bureaucracy, including the costly infrastructure
of the gun registration system, has increased by $200 million
"And for what?" asks Mauser. "There has been no visible impact on
violent crime. It is impossible to justify such a massive amount
of the taxpayers' money for no decrease in crime. For that kind
of tax money, the police could have had more patrol cars, shorter
shifts, or better equipment."
The contrast between the criminal violence rates in the United
States and in Canada is dramatic. Over the past decade, the rate
of violent crime in Canada has increased while in the United
States the violent crime rate has plummeted. The homicide rate is
dropping faster in the US than in Canada.
The Canadian experiment with firearm registration is becoming a
farce says Mauser. The effort to register all firearms, which was
originally claimed to cost only $2 million, has now been
estimated by the Auditor General to top $1 billion. The final
costs are unknown but, if the costs of enforcement are included,
the total could easily reach $3 billion.
"It is an illusion that gun bans protect the public. No law, no
matter how restrictive, can protect us from people who decide to
commit violent crimes. Maybe we should crack down on criminals
rather than hunters and target shooters?" says